This was meant to be a very self-congratulatory blog entry, the first of a number of smug travel-advicey types whereby I offer the accumulated wisdom of my past 3 years of obsessively reading travel guides to prove quite how clever a packer I am. For the most part this is a massive fail – probably the first of many in my adventures. Where I was going to offer tips for conserving space, saving on weight and compressing everything down to the size of a matchstick I’m now going to explain how this all went horribly wrong.
Now my biggest sources of information on packing came from Rough Guides’ First Time Around The World, very serious travel advice for very serious grown-up boy-scout travellers but very useful nonetheless, and Chelsea Duke’s High Heels and a Head Torch. The latter you may gather is slightly more irreverent advice but equally as useful. Where Rough Guides advocates no luxuries but maximum efficiency and compass-use, Chelsea Duke points out that depriving yourself of an eyeliner pencil is possibly false economy when you find yourself somewhere a bit nicer for an evening and have nothing but some grubby zip-off cargo shorts and a pair of hiking shoes. When you weigh the odds, the eyeliner is probably ok to take with you.
I did begin well with some good advice and I’ll share this with you; I warn you it goes downhill quickly though.
First Aid = Win
This a Rough Guides tip and it is a good’un. Don’t buy a pre-made First Aid kit, it’s more expensive generally than buying the bits separately and tends to include only a couple of the bits you know you’ll need quite a lot (blister plasters) and lots of stuff its unlikely you’ll need and can get out there in a push. When you have lots of plasters and paracetamol, rehydration sachets and various other pills and potions in individual card boxes they take up lots of space and the boxes get tatty and dog-eared, the contents fall out and get ruined in a downpour.
1) Dig out a small Tupperware box.
3) When necessary cut the back page off the box so you’ve got the instructions.
4) Voila! Much less space taken and all your stuff is air-tight and protected. Happy days.
Shoes = Win
I cannot believe I didn’t think of this before but would you believe it; there’s enough room in a pair of shoes for an entire pair of human feet! This means certainly enough space to store your balled-up socks or other small squishy things. Make use of that space campers.
That’s pretty much it for what went well with packing. Here’s where I’m up to now:
The Pack – Win/Fail
Now I love my backpack; it’s beautiful and has some very handy features – like for instance it weighs next to nothing, has lots of compression straps that squeeze it down teeny and you can even zip all the straps away and turn it into a kind of suitcase so it doesn’t get damaged in transit on a plane. That’s a very cool idea. There aren’t really any fails that are its fault except that I bought it thinking about back-packing. I wanted one that wasn’t too big so that I could carry it easily and so that it wouldn’t tempt me into carrying mounds of unnecessary gear. Except I’m not really going back-packing, or certainly not for ages; I’m moving and working. After I bought it I realised that on top of all the standard gear I would need a full working wardrobe which in Thailand means covered-up neck to ankle, no upper arms on display and closed-toe smart shoes. I’ve also got dozens of other things I wanted to take – books and resources etc and there simply isn’t the space. I suppose it’s good because it’ll force me to be brutal but it’s still quite worrying.
In an attempt to combat the clothing problem I thought I’d be very clever and invest in compression bags – genius you say! Well sort of. It seemed like a good idea; water-proof and space-saving after all. I spent £15 on two and squashed all my clothes into them, aggressively squeezing the air out. Still no space. You see what I achieved was to create two rock hard bricks of clothing which take up most of the space in my bag. The thing about clothes not in brick form is that they can be forced into corners and spread round the edges and moulded into gaps to use space. The bricks just sat in there leaving lots of gaps with nothing suitable left to fill them – the situation if anything was even worse than before. Racking everything up along the side and bottom so far seems to be the best way forward but it still doesn’t leave much room.
So much cabling! I confess I hadn’t thought too much about this one until I tried to pack it all. First there’s the kindle, that’s quite neat and compact and fits perfectly into a pocket of my day-bag and the charger’s not too offensive although it constitutes yet another wire in the enormous ball of them I have. Then there’s my phone and charger, bulky SLR camera and case and chunky 4 battery charger. International plug adaptors. Netbook and 2.5m cable and adaptor! That cable’s the most annoying, I can’t seem to curl it up in a way that reduces the unreasonable amount of space it takes up. The netbook itself is no bigger than the average hardback and I bought it after some consideration when I decided that it would be pretty invaluable for photos and blogging and skyping and all that sort of thing. Damn that cable though! I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to have to sacrifice a fairly good chunk of space to chargers and cables.
The story so far is that I can comfortably fit about half of what I want to take into my available space. Time for some serious re-shuffling. Advice is welcome!